In February 2015 I had the opportunity to be part of a delegation visiting Srebrenica. It was a visit I shall never forget, as the full horror of what took place there a mere twenty years ago dawned on me for the first time. I still find it difficult to believe that this appalling act of genocide occurred so soon after Europe’s experience of the Holocaust, and our united vow that such a thing would never happen again on European soil. In July 1995, all our European democracies stood by while genocide was perpetrated in our midst.
While we cannot turn the clock back, the important thing for us now is that we do not allow this shameful event, involving the systematic abuse and rape of many women and girls and the brutal murder of over 8,000 men and boys, to be forgotten. We must hold in our thoughts and prayers those who still carry the pain of grievous loss, and those who survived but who bear deep wounds and dreadful memories. We are indebted to the charity ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ for all that they do to help keep before us all the memory and the lessons of Srebrenica.
There is no doubt that we shall most worthily honour the memory of those who died, and those who still suffer, by committing ourselves to the demanding task of peacemaking in a divided world. At Srebrenica we witnessed the tragic failure of the peacekeepers. It is a reminder that while peacekeepers may separate warring parties for a time, this represents a severely limited approach to dealing with conflict. Peacemakers, on the other hand, aim at genuine reconciliation between people. It is a more difficult and costly strategy, but our broken and divided world cries out for those who have such a commitment. It is only in the way of radical peacemaking that we shall bring real hope where now there is hostility and conflict. May the memory of Srebrenica serve to advance that worthy goal in every context.